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The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is a Federal body created in 1890
and established in its present form by Public Law in 1947 to
maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal
Government. The Board comprises representatives of Federal agencies
concerned with geographic information, population, ecology, and
management of public lands. Sharing its responsibilities with
the Secretary of the Interior, the Board promulgates official
geographic feature names with locative attributes as well as
principles, policies, and procedures governing the use of domestic
names, foreign names, Antarctic names, and undersea feature names.
The original program of names standardization addressed the
complex issues of domestic geographic feature names during the
surge of exploration, mining, and settlement of western territories
after the American Civil War. Inconsistencies and contradictions
among many names, spellings, and applications became a serious
problem to surveyors, map makers, and scientists who required
uniform, non-conflicting geographic nomenclature. President Benjamin
Harrison signed an Executive Order establishing the Board and
giving it authority to resolve unsettled geographic names questions.
Decisions of the Board were accepted as binding by all departments
and agencies of the Federal Government.
The Board gradually expanded its interests to include foreign
names and other areas of interest to the United States, a process
that accelerated during World War II. In 1947, the Board was
recreated by Congress in Public_Law_80-242 . The usefulness of
standardizing (not regulating) geographic names has been proven
time and again, and today more than 50 nations have some type
of national names authority. The United Nations stated that "the best
method to achieve international standardization is through strong
programs of national standardization." Numerous nations established policies
relevant to toponomy (the study of names) in their respective countries.
In this age of geographic information systems, the Internet,
and homeland defense, geographic names data are even more important
and more challenging. Applying the latest technology, the Board
on Geographic Names continues its mission. It serves the Federal
Government and the public as a central authority to which name
problems, name inquiries, name changes, and new name proposals
can be directed. In partnership with Federal, State, and local
agencies, the Board provides a conduit through which uniform
geographic name usage is applied and current names data are promulgated.
For geographic feature names policies applying to the United
States, or to the use of foreign geographic names, Antarctica
names, and undersea feature names by the United States, see the
respective items in the main menu on the left. Any person or
organization, public or private, may make inquiries or request
the Board to render formal decisions on proposed new names, proposed
name changes, or names that are in conflict. Minutes of the Board's
meetings are available. Communications concerning the Board should
be addressed to:
U.S. Board on Geographic Names
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 523
Reston, Virginia 20192-0523
Phone: (703) 648-4552
FAX: (703) 648-4549